Senator Ali Ndume, who is standing as bail surety for a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina, said on Friday that he could no longer find the defendant whom he had made a legal commitment to always produce in court for his trial.
Ndume said this at the Federal High Court in Abuja while responding to the judge’s query about Maina’s absence for the third time in a row within one week.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is prosecuting Maina on 12 counts of money laundering involving about N2bn.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, had ordered Maina to provide a serving senator as a surety for the bail granted him.
The judge had, following Maina’s repeated requests, twice varied the bail conditions, reducing the bail sum from the original N1billion to N500million with only one surety as opposed two originally requested by the court.
The only surety who must be a serving senator must be ready to accompany the defendant to court and sign the court’s register of attendance for every hearing session, the judge had ordered.
Ndume, who represents Borno South Senatorial District where Maina hails from, later agreed to serve as the defendant’s surety.
In line with terms and conditions of the bail which the judge gave in January 2020, Ndume gave legal commitment to accompany the defendant to court every trial date and provided the court with the title documents of his property worth N500m in a choice area of Abuja as a guarantee.
But both Maina and Ndume were absent for the proceedings scheduled to hold on September 29.
The senator who subsequently attended court on September 30 without Maina explained to the judge on Friday that he was absent from the September 29 proceedings due to the Boko Haram attack on the convoy of the Governor of Borno State.
He told the court that Maina’s doctor had said the defendant was admitted to the hospital. He said he was expecting Maina to be in court on Friday following an earlier assurance by the defendant’s wife.
Asked by the judge if he knew the defendant’s whereabouts, the senator said, “My lord, I must confess, I do not know.”
The senator, who recalled that he agreed to serve as Maina’s surety following pleas by the defendant’s wife and uncle, also said, “I did not foresee these circumstances, my lord”.
He said he did not know Maina’s residence in Abuja, but he knew the one in Kaduna. The senator pleaded for more time to enable him to find the defendant.
Defence lawyer, Francis Oronsaye, who had at the previous proceedings informed the court that Maina was on hospital admission, urged the court to further adjourn the case.
But EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Farouk Abdullah, opposed the request for an adjournment, informing the court that the anti-corruption agency’s investigation revealed that Maina was not a patient at Maitama General Hospital.
The lawyer, who said the development showed that Maina had jumped bail, urged the court to issue a warrant of arrest against Maina as the judge was empowered to do under section 184 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
He also urged the court to summon Ndume to show cause why he should not forfeit the bail bond and be remanded in prison in line with the commitment he entered into as a surety for the defendant’s bail.
But the defence lawyer appealed to the judge to further exercise patience with the defendants.
The lawyer urged the court to accept the explanation offered by Ndume and to give him time to produce Maina to stand trial.
Responding, the judge who expressed dissatisfaction with the conduct of the defendant, said the senator ought to have been wary of the risk involved in standing as a surety.
He maintained that the law would take its course.
He said the prosecution was right to ask for the revocation of Maina’s bail and for the surety to forfeit the bail bond.
He, however, adjourned the matter till October 5, with an order that the surety must be in court with the defendant on that day.